Norovirus suspected after 104 become ill on Tampa-bound cruise ship

The ms Oosterdam docked in Tampa.
The ms Oosterdam docked in Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A cruise ship scheduled to depart from Tampa on Friday will undergo a thorough sanitation after a suspected Norovirus outbreak on the ship.

Holland America said in a statement that a number of guests on the ms Oosterdam reported being sick during a 15-day cruise that departed from Rome, Italy on Nov. 3. Holland America said the pattern of illness strongly suggested the cause was Norovirus, which is easily transmitted from person to person if attention is not paid to personal hygiene.

The outbreak was reported to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said that 86 passengers and 18 crew members became ill with predominant symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. There were a total of 1,843 passengers on the ship and 796 crew members.

The cruise line said that enhanced sanitation procedures were implemented on the ship. Passengers with symptoms were isolated in cabins. High touch surfaces like railings, door handles and elevator buttons were disinfected. Hand sanitizers were placed throughout the ship and passengers were encouraged to use correct handwashing procedures.

The ship is undergoing a thorough sanitation at the end of the cruise on Friday, Nov. 18 before guests board for the ship’s next voyage, the cruise line said.

The CDC said a CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officer and an epidemiologist will board the ship in Tampa on Nov. 18 to conduct an environmental health assessment and evaluate the outbreak and response activities.  The CDC said that specimens have been collected and will be sent to CDC for testing.

Holland America said that the safety and well-being of its guests is its top priority.

A passenger on the ship said the crew kept passengers updated about the outbreak and continued to clean the ship after people became ill.

“We were updated daily by the captain and were told that the cases were subsiding on a daily basis and as of Wednesday of this past week, no new cases had been reported. The crew performed an outstanding job in sanitizing and continuously cleaning all areas of the ship…. As the cruise continued from Portugal to Tampa there appeared to be a large number of passengers who had developed serious coughs and that gave us cause for concern,” said Margaret Cabral in an email.

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